Dude, Where’s My Pallet?

A recent spat of pallet thefts in Baltimore has become such a problem that a private investigator was hired to track them down. They were the property of a variety of companies, including PepsiCo. The pallets were tracked to a recycling center in Hyattsville, in the suburbs of Washington DC, as part of a haul of 3 million pounds of plastic, all of which had been stolen from a variety of firms.

Rehrig Pacific had also been looking into this phenomenon, and published a whitepaper in December 2014 about what they coined as “a new breed of criminal.” They claim that the criminals are taking them from loading docks and selling them on to below the radar recycling networks. All types of plastic storage is being taken, including pallets, crates and trays, all made from high density polyethylene (HDPE), as well as polypropylene. The cost to retailers is currently running at a staggering $500 million a year.

These losses sift their way through the supply chain, from the factories to the outlets, to the consumer. Dealing in stolen plastic has become big business, which has the infrastructure in place to enable thieves to do their work very easily. This is a problem every distributer is facing and it’s only going to get worse, so what can be done about it?

For a start, pallets should be tracked using RFID or barcode technology at every point in the supply chain, including inside the distribution center or warehouse. This may be difficult to implement, but there are added benefits for the supply chain, including knowing where the small loads on the pallets are at any time.

As the problems arise when the pallets are in storage, it’s important that every movement can be tracked. This means each pallet needs it’s own RFID tag or barcode, and this goes for all types of pallet coming into or out of the warehouse or DC. Packaging varies between vendors and so do tracking methods, so there may be some work to do in standardizing these.

More difficulties arise when workers neglect to track the movements of pallets, but RFID tags can help here by reducing the time needed to track lost pallets down. The readers have a function, which can hone in on a pallet once it’s within a certain range.

Learn more about how RFID can help you keep track of your pallets.

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